NASA telescope uses moonlight to improve satellite accuracy

Nasa sent a telescope into space that will measure the amount of light reflected from the Moon to improve the accuracy and consistency of measurements between Earth observation satellites.



Airborne Lunar Spectral Irradiance, or air-LUSI, flew aboard NASA’s ER-2 aircraft to accurately measure reflected moonlight.

By using the Moon as a “tuning fork”, scientists can more easily compare data from different satellites to observe global changes over long periods of time, the US space agency said in a statement Monday.

“The Moon is extremely stable and is not influenced by factors on Earth like the climate to a large extent. It becomes a really good calibration reference, an independent reference, where we can tune our instruments and see what’s going on with our planet,” said air-LUSI Principal Investigator Kevin Turpie from the University of Maryland in the United States.

NASA has more than 20 Earth observation satellites that provide researchers with a global perspective on the interconnected Earth system.

The air-LUSI is a telescope that measures the amount of light reflected from the lunar surface to gauge how much energy Earth observation satellites receive from the moonlight.

To improve the accuracy of lunar reflectance models, air-LUSI measurements are accurate with less than 1% uncertainty.

This airborne approach has the advantage of studying moonlight during different phases of the Moon while being able to bring the instrument back between flights for evaluation, maintenance and, if necessary, repair, according to NASA.

“Once air-LUSI measurements are used to improve the accuracy of the total amount of light coming from the Moon, we can take much more accurate measurements of Earth using current and future space observatories,” Turpie said. .

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